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Opinion polls put Modi-Nitish at ease till news headlines suck the joy out of NDA campaign

The contrast between surly incumbent Nitish Kumar and calm pretender Tejashwi Yadav has been neatly juxtaposed on TV, which has gone the extra mile in its coverage of Bihar election.

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Narendra Modi and Nitish Kumar ought to be sitting back with a relaxed, confident smile playing on their lips.

The Bihar assembly election opinion polls, thus far, predict a comfortable majority for the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) – anything from C-Voter Times Now’s 147 out of 243 for NDA and Mahagathbandhan 87 to the Lokniti-CSDS poll for India Today that had the NDA at 133-143 and the grand alliance  at 88-98.

That indicates a strong mandate for the alliance of BJP-JDU+ to govern Bihar for another five years with Nitish as chief minister. But here’s what’s so odd: Nitish wears a scowl on his face at rallies, the PM mentions ‘Sushasan Babu’ as Nitish is fondly called sparingly in his poll speeches and meanwhile, it’s Tejashwi Yadav and Chirag Paswan who are enjoying the TV spotlight.

Also read: Why I am not excited about Bihar election: Yogendra Yadav

Not cool, Nitish, says TV 

Yes, something is definitely blowing in the airwaves.

Watch TV coverage of the poll campaign and encounter headlines such as, ‘Nitish Kumar ko kyon gussa aata hai?’ (Aaj Tak); ‘What’s happened — why has Nitish changed?’ (NDTV India); ‘Is Nitish Kumar a liability for NDA?’ (Mirror Now); ‘Who will win the Bihar election?’ (ABP News)

Notice the subheads: ‘Nitish booed at rally’ (NDTV India), ‘Jeers for Nitish at campaign meet’ (India TV). Then study the excerpts of his rally speeches: Nitish babu has a perpetual frown, looks angry and petulant by turns. There is a harsh, aggrieved edge to his voice, too.

Is ‘Mr Cool’, as reporters dubbed him, having a meltdown? Take his personal attack on Lalu Yadav, headline news Tuesday — “They have eight-nine children. They have no faith in daughters…”

Anchors and reporters immediately took note:

“(Nitish) is snappy, personal… this is not who Nitish Kumar is…” remarked India Today’s Rahul Kanwal.

“(This is a man) who speaks in measured tones, what is he saying now?” asked a surprised Deepak Chaurasia (NewsNation).

Lalu’s son Tejashwi Yadav’s retort that his comment reflected on PM Modi (who) also has six siblings was delivered in the calm, composed tone of a seasoned politician. But shouldn’t it have been the other way around — Nitish Kumar playing the self-possessed elder statesman on the verge of a famous fourth term as CM, and Tejashwi Yadav as the aggressive pretender?

Also read: ‘Nitish hatao’ chorus grows louder in Bihar 

It’s a Tejashwi-Chirag show

This contrast between a surly incumbent and a calm pretender has been neatly juxtaposed on TV. In extensive coverage of the Bihar 2020 election campaign — and voting day Wednesday — especially on Hindi news channels, Tejashwi sounds self-assured as he speaks of unemployment, the price rise, the youth’s aspirations; Nitish Kumar is defensive about his 15-year record as CM as if the RJD leader has forced him on to the back foot.

Tejashwi has also enjoyed significantly more air time than Nitish, with channels lining up to interview him, be it News 24, Aaj Tak or ABP News. Conversely, haven’t seen an interview with Nitish Kumar on the mainstream news channels – or, for that matter, with any leading politician of his Janata Dal (United) other than perhaps K.C. Tyagi.

Conversely, Lok Janshakti Party (LJP)’s Chirag Paswan finds that his every utterance generates a headline: ‘Liquor mafia funding Nitish’ (CNN News18) – and he’s been interviewed more often than Tejashwi.

Thus, the way we see it on TV, the two young politicians have nudged Nitish Kumar aside and occupied centre stage. When the CM does make an appearance, it’s for his ill-tempered utterances.

Equally striking is the near absence of the BJP from TV’s poll coverage. Other than live telecasts of PM Modi’s rallies, excerpts from party president J.P. Nadda’s speeches, a few interviews with Sushil Modi who is in hospital with Covid-19 (News 24, India Today) and TV debates, the party which is predicted to end up as the single largest after the election, is missing. Is it because the BJP depends almost entirely on the PM — ‘Will Modi wave deliver Bihar?’ (Times Now)

Also read: Has Nitish done enough? Bihar’s women, unhappy about jobs & alcohol, set to answer key question

Citizens speak, result awaited

What of the people of Bihar, surely they are with the CM? Not if you listen to them on TV. ABP News, NDTV India, Aaj Tak, India TV, India Today, CNN News18, etc., have travelled far and wide this time to capture the mood of the state.

On NDTV India’s ‘Bihar ka Dangal’, women in Begusarai speak out. One says they have received no government benefits; another complains that her ration has been stopped; a third says she is angry with the government; while a fourth denies women get reservations in panchayats. How much will you give Nitish out of 10, asks the reporter? One says, “Kuchh nahi”, another says 9 while a third settles for 2.

“I think people of Bihar, they want a change… Tejashwi will probably be coming with a number of more than 150 seats, this time…,’’ said a resident of Patna to Marya Shakil, CNN News18. News 24 also reports from Patna, where young men demand jobs, better education — “change hona chahiye”, says a young man.

India TV finds the mood in Patna veers between supporting Nitish and admiring Tejashwi for his energy; Aaj Tak’s ‘Bullet Reporter’ on a motorcycle, Chitra Tripathi goes to Bankipur where the young people demand more colleges. In Jehanabad, unemployment is the main issue; ABP News finds a lack of development in Motihari; India Today visits Dalmianagar where the young complain of no jobs. On Zee Hindustan’s ‘Chunavi Safar’, the public in Araria complains about the lack of hospitals. In Sitamarhi, they raise questions about the floods in the district. Mirror Now in Jamui finds only one word on the lips of the young men: jobs, jobs, jobs.

Is this the true picture emerging from Bihar? One where Nitish Kumar appears to have lost the plot, the BJP plays sleeping partner while Tejashwi and Chirag Paswan reflect a desire for a change? Or is it just good tele-nomics, framed thus to attract viewers?

All will be revealed on 10 November. What is clear is that television news has gone that extra mile in its coverage; what is curious is that the BJP is hardly in the picture and its partner is seen in poor light.

Views are personal.

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  1. If you can win by making fools of voters who needs development ? This is what made BJP JDU sleep .
    CM banave voter lalu ji ke laal ko most young will get jobs and home stay will get increased unemployed pension. Its possible since Congress can create easy plan for Tejaswi.

  2. election engineering. Create polls to show a win, so that when you manipulate it for a win, it becomes believable. But even a fool can see what the results of a free and fair election will be in Bihar.

  3. And in November your opinion will also stand validated as one-sided Jyoti. Have you heard of conscious/unconscious bias? We will wait patiently while people do their job. Let the Indian elites not pre-judge and declare their bias on the outcome in the name of journalism. But you have your right to be curious.

  4. There will always be complains and no government will be able to fulfil all promises. More you do dvelopment, the more expectations go up and more difficult to fulfil them. Political parties do not like decisions which are not poll friendly. Also, people them selves try to defeat all good decisions of the goverment by finding sortcuts to cheat the goverment as the good decisions bar many unworthy folks from taking the goverment benefits.

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